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Broncos Battle Breakdown: Myth-busting Denver's first depth chart

Zac Stevens Avatar
August 7, 2018

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — On Tuesday, the Denver Broncos released their first depth chart of the year.

But depth charts don’t always tell the full story, and as head coach Vance Joseph admitted shortly after the release, change is in the air.

“We’ll get through preseason and see where we stand with the depth chart,” Joseph said after Tuesday’s practice. “It’s going to change probably 50 more times, hopefully. We don’t want to stay where we are. We got major competition at a lot of areas. It should change some.”

Before those changes are made, however, here’s what BSN Denver has seen through the first week and a half of training camp and how that matches up, or doesn’t match up, to the depth chart released by the team on Tuesday.

(The full depth chart can be seen at the bottom of the page)

RUNNING BACK

Broncos’ depth chart:

Devontae Booker

Royce Freeman

De’Angelo Henderson

David Williams

Phillip Lindsay

What we’ve seen

Overall, it’s clear Booker has been the team’s first option through camp. However, outside of that, the order is truly up in the air.

Any order between the other four wouldn’t be surprising, just to show how up in the air the four backup spots truly are.

Saying that, Booker has by no means been has stood out enough to earn the starting job, and one of the other four backs could still overtake him.

“It may change four to five times, but right now, we’ve got Book as the lead guy,” Joseph said on Tuesday, publicly hedging his first depth chart. “He’s earned that right as the most experienced guy.”

It sure seems like the Broncos want Freeman to win the job and play a major role this season, but through the first nine practices, he has yet to do that. Henderson and Lindsay have shown enough to be weapons on offense, and it’s a surprise the University of Colorado star sits at the bottom of the chart.

Henderson has impressed enough — specifically to offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave — to be fighting for the No. 2 spot.

The preseason games will play the biggest role in the evolution of the depth chart.

TIGHT END

Broncos’ depth chart:

Jeff Heuerman

Jake Butt

Austin Traylor

Matt LaCosse

Brian Parker

Troy Fumagalli

What we’ve seen

Traylor has consistently had the most first-team reps of any tight end on the roster, making it the shock of the depth chart release that he finds himself sitting at No. 3.

Known as a blocker — specifically for his ability to block all over the field, including fullback — Traylor has also become a consistent receiver for Case Keenum, specifically in the short game.

Before his injury, it did appear Heuerman was the team’s first tight end, but since he’s missed practices — and his absence has now been over a week — every tight end has impressed.

Midway through camp, Butt is the team’s best receiving option at the position, and he’s quickly developing strong chemistry with Keenum.

LaCosse and Parker have also shown to be receiving options, but have only scraped a few first-team reps.

On Tuesday, Joseph admitted some of the positions on the depth chart were given on merit from last year and the offseason. It appears Heuerman was one of those beneficiaries, as he has yet to earn the No. 1 designation given to him.

If Heuerman doesn’t return soon, he could realistically go from the team’s first tight end to open training camp, to not making the team.

THIRD CORNERBACK

Broncos’ depth chart:

Isaac Yiadom / Tramaine Brock

Brendan Langley / C.J. Smith

What we’ve seen

If healthy, Brock would likely be the team’s third cornerback right now, due to his veteran presence. But his hamstring injury, which has caused him to miss many practices, has opened the door for the third-round picks to swoop in. And one of them did.

Since Brock’s been sidelined, Yiadom has skyrocketed up the depth chart on the field, jumping over Langley to take the team’s third corner spot for the time being. Langley, on the other spectrum, has continued to show he needs time to develop.

While Brock is the veteran of the group, as Chris Harris Jr. said, the team still doesn’t know what type of player he is.

When Brock returns, the third cornerback spot shouldn’t be handed to him. Yiadom has done enough to earn a competition.

If he keeps this up, he will, and should, push Brock for that role. Right now, Yiadom’s been the best corner on the field outside of Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER

Broncos’ depth chart:

Von Miller / Bradley Chubb

Shaquil Barrett / Shane Ray

Jerrol Garcia-Williams / Marcus Rush

Antonio Simmons / Jeff Holland

Stanley Maponga

What we’ve seen

To open camp, Ray was the team’s starting outside linebacker opposite Miller. Now, with the team giving the nod to Chubb, there’s likely no looking back.

Since Ray is a pure standup outside linebacker, he’s taken more reps than Chubb at that spot. But there is no denying the Broncos want Chubb to be the starter on opening day.

“We’ve been pleased with him — not just with his physical abilities, but with his football IQ. He’s so smart,” Joseph said, defending Chubb atop the depth chart. “He’s walked in, and he’s done a good job for us — in the pass game, the run game, with the pressure — so he’s earned that right, right now.”

Ray started camp with his hair on fire, catching everyone’s eyes. As camp has progressed, the tide has slowly shifted to Chubb. Tuesday, Chubb proved the organization right as he had many plays where he ended up in the backfield.

Listed as an outside linebacker, the No. 5-overall pick has taken a significant amount of reps at defensive end, opening the door for him, Ray and Barrett to be on the field at the same time.

THIRD RECEIVER

Broncos’ depth chart:

Courtland Sutton / DaeSean Hamilton

Tim Patrick / River Cracraft

John Diarse / Isaiah McKenzie

Mark Chapman / Jordan Leslie

Corey Brown / Bryce Bobo

What we’ve seen

There’s no question who the team’s best receiver is outside of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Through the first week and a half of camp, Sutton has simply been the best player on the field, and thus, he’s at least the Broncos’ third receiver.

It’s also clear that fellow rookie Hamilton is the team’s fourth option.

Where the real battle is brewing is with the team’s fifth and sixth options. Tim Patrick has had a solid camp as a big-body target, but Cracraft has had an impressive camp, showing he can be a true slot receiver. Those two have separated themselves from the rest of the pack pretty significantly.

After a strong offseason, McKenzie has been relatively unnoticeable at the receiver position.

SAFETY

Broncos’ depth chart:

Justin Simmons / Darian Stewart

Su’a Cravens / Will Parks

Jamal Carter / Dymonte Thomas

Try Marshall / Jordan Moore

What we’ve seen

There’s no question Simmons was going to be the team’s starting free safety, but entering camp, there was some buzz about whether Stewart would be able to hold off the other young talented safeties.

Through the first nine practices, Stewart has put an end to that discussion.

With Cravens sidelined, Parks has stepped up and done a mighty fine job, earning significant playing time in the team’s dime and nickel packages. Once Cravens is healthy, he won’t be given the third safety job; he’ll have to overtake Parks — which won’t be easy, or frankly, likely.

DEFENSIVE END

Broncos’ depth chart:

Derek Wolfe / Adam Gotsis

Zach Kerr / DeMarcus Walker

DeShawn Williams / Clinton McDonald

Caushaud Lyons

What we’ve seen

The Broncos are sticking with the formula they had last year, which helped them have one of the best defensive lines in the country.

With how dynamic this position will be, the starter is almost a moot point, but the initial nod goes to Gotsis as has been the case for all of camp.

Don’t sleep on Shelby Harris in terms of playing time; he’s had an excellent camp. Although he’s listed as the backup nose tackle on the first depth chart, he will see significant playing time at end as well.

Walker has primarily been working as a pass-rushing specialist as that will likely carry over into the entire season.

Recently, McDonald has begun to get first-team reps, as was the case on Tuesday, but he’s nowhere close to being a starter.

PUNT RETURNER

Broncos’ depth chart:

Isaiah McKenzie

River Cracraft

Phillip Lindsay

DaeSean Hamilton

What we’ve seen

After Tuesday’s practice, Joseph showed just how unsettled this position still is by saying Jordan Taylor “probably” would have been listed as the first punt returner if he were healthy. Instead, the nod goes to last year’s No. 2 guy — in the words of Joseph — McKenzie.

It appears McKenzie will be given the job until he fumbles it away. Cracraft and Lindsay do appear to be giving him a run for his money, but no one on the team has the big-play potential like McKenzie, still giving him the upper hand despite his fumbles last year.

BACKUP QUARTERBACK

Broncos’ depth chart:

Paxton Lynch

Chad Kelly

What we’ve seen

Lynch has no doubt been the team’s second quarterback on the depth chart the entirety of training camp, as he’s taken every second-team rep. However, he’s done nothing to lock up the spot.

In fact, after Sunday’s scrimmage, Kelly has done enough to earn second-team reps. Joseph said Kelly “could” receive those reps in the future, as he should.

But until Kelly gets a chance to prove himself with the second team, it’s impossible to change the order no matter how many people believe it should.

RIGHT GUARD

Broncos’ depth chart:

Connor McGovern

Menelik Watson

Jeremiah Poutasi

What we’ve seen

This thing’s all but over, as the only time McGovern hasn’t taken first-team reps at right guard was when he was filling in for Matt Paradis at center.

What seemed like one of the most intriguing battles entering camp has been the most straightforward.

It’s a wrap; the offensive line is set.

Offense

Defense

Special Teams

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